The sun was beaming over the Chesapeake Bay and the air was still and warm on the morning of the 47th annual Holly Run to Tangier Island. One by one, small planes flew into Kent Island’s Bay Bridge Airport, and one by one, pilots and passengers stepped into the Hangar of Chesapeake Sport Pilot, ready for their annual hot breakfast of pancakes and bacon, coffee and sweets.
A Chesapeake holiday tradition, the Holly Run attracts recreational pilots from throughout the region to join in the annual gifting of greens to residents of Tangier, out some 12 miles into the Chesapeake Bay. Chesapeake Sport Pilot owner Helen Woods took over the job of organizing the Holly Run from Ed Nabb, Jr., whose father started the tradition back in the late 1960s.
Volunteers in Santa hats welcomed the pilots and the mood was jolly in the hangar. “We have an entire team of volunteers working in the background to make this happen – lots of “Elves” make the Holly Run successful” said Woods. “You can’t fit 50 airplanes onto a tiny strip without Parking Elves. We have a team of Cooking Elves, a Press Elf, a Communications Elf, A Webmaster Elf, a Photo Elf and more.”
After words of appreciation from Ed Nabb and group photos, the planes took off, 52 in all, toward Tangier Island, a flying parade in the air. One by one, the planes landed and squeezed into the small parking area. Islanders waited, welcoming the pilots and Santa. They offered a traditional service at an Islands church and friendly conversations. The pilots and passengers toured the island, its history museum (including a special exhibit just about the Holly Run) and finished with a traditional lunch at Lorraine’s Seafood Restaurant on the Island.
This event is a perfect example of Chesapeake Sport Pilot’s mission – to teach and support recreational flying. What does it take to learn to fly? “Time, hard work and dedication” says Woods. “Think of learning to fly as a semester of college.” Chesapeake Sport Pilot is a year-round flight school that is rapidly gaining national recognition as it continues to win awards. Most recently, it won a Top Ten Outstanding Flight School” Award by AOPA – the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. That organization was well represented on the Run this year, with AOPA representatives from as far as Seattle joining this year’s Holly Run.
Anyone interested in aviation should check into Chesapeake Sport Pilot’s website, and pay particular attention to the upcoming Free Public Aviation Seminar Series. If you want to learn to fly, your first step will be a $99 introductory flight, followed by enrollment in training classes and Ground School. You might even end up joining a Flying Club, where members share the costs and responsibilities of owning an airplane. Who knows? You might even end up joining in on a Tangier Holly Run sometime in the future.
Special thanks to my pilot Barry Schultz, who spends his volunteer time with Pilots N Paws, a pet rescue pilot, taking pets in need to safety across the Mid-Atlantic. Here’s an iPhone video of our landing on Tangier Island.